THE NATIONAL Union of Students has called for a national council for awards to monitor standards in higher education and approve the awarding of qualifications, writes Chris Johnston.
In its submission to the Dearing committee the union says self-regulation is no longer viable, and the monitoring of standards and quality is of such importance that it must be funded properly.
The NUS also claims there is an "overwhelming argument" for the establishment of a General Council for University Teaching, to provide recognition for those working to improve teaching.
One of the main themes of the submission is "seamless" post-16 education. The NUS declares that the academic-vocational divide is redundant and proposes a general certificate of further education to bridge the gap.
It calls for expansion in the post-16 sector and wants the Dearing committee to set targets - 40 per cent of 18-year-olds in higher education in the medium-term and 50 per cent in the long term.
To ensure that the student experience is not downgraded the NUS suggests the creation of a national ombudsman for student complaints. The union, which conducted its own consultation process with student unions, says there has been a marked decline in the quality of the student experience, due mainly to under-funding. It remains adamantly opposed to student tuition fees in any form, calling for legislation to rule them out.
The union says that institutions should be funded fairly with research cash balanced in order to avoid the creation of an "elite" which creams off the majority of the grant money.